Punch,  48 (1865), 206–07.




Drama, Drollery

Relevant illustrations:



Physical Geography, Exploration, Astronomy, Heroism, Mapping, Instruments, Race, Telegraphy

    Introduced as a 'Libretto of the grand new Old Opera' (a reference to Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera L'Africaine), which opens in the 'Council Chamber of some King of Portugal', where 'Members of the Royal Lisbon Geographical Society' and others lament the possible death of Vasco da Gama, the 'great discoverer'. Vasco, however, makes a surprise entrance but is then imprisoned by 'Bishops and Grand Inquisitors' for claiming that there are 'other countries than those mentioned in the Scriptures'. Later, in his dungeon, furnished with books, maps, and several measuring instruments, he is seen rotating a globe in his hand, uttering 'But it still moves. Stop, I ought not to say that. I am not Galileo'. His beloved Selica, an African queen whom he has brought to Portugal, explains how she was sold to Roderick I Murchison and escaped from him 'by submarine telegraph'. (206) Later, Vasco and his cellmates escape to Madagascar, where Selica is queen, and where such spectacles as 'caves of Elephanta [and] Giants' Causeways' are seen. The opera also features a scene around an upas tree which is 'very splendid, with red leaves, but surrounded with dead elephants, giraffes, and others who have ventured within reach of its poison'. It concludes with Selica learning of Vasco's fate from Nelusko's reading of Charles Knight's Cyclopaedia of Geography (published in Knight 1854–70). The illustration shows the gory scene around the upas tree. (207)

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